Another preview from Chapter Four:
Selling of Indulgences
Callous greed grows pious very fast.
– Lillian Hellman
Four hundred and ninety-five years ago Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation with one seemingly innocent act. He posted what would be called his 95 Theses on the door of the Catholic church in Wittenberg, Germany for purposes of discussion. The 95 Theses were an enumerated list of abuses by the Vatican, carried out at the direction of the “infallible” pope. While many abuses were covered, the ones at first most focused upon were those connected with the practice of selling indulgences. The idea of buying one’s way to salvation, to Luther, was the most hideous single desecration of Christ.
And here is where our reflections on history come into play with respect to Scientology. Over the past couple of decades, we find much the same culture has taken hold in the church of Scientology (hereinafter referred to as Scientology Inc. or corporate Scientology). Organized Scientology’s extensive ethics and justice apparatuses have been corrupted toward precisely the same end. Knowing history, and the potential corrupting influence of money, founder L. Ron Hubbard expressly forbade the payment of money to absolve any wrongdoing by a Scientologist. In his Policy Letter of 1 May, 1965, entitled Staff Member Reports, he stated, “A donation or fine would not be acceptable amends.”
Yet today, Scientology Inc. officers empowered to administer ethics and justice in Scientology organizations across the world routinely do, as a matter of operating policy, accept monetary donations as acceptable amends. In fact they not only accept such donations, they demand them. There is no civil or ecclesiastical crime within Scientology Inc. that cannot be forgiven and forgotten for a price. Status among Scientologists is now measured by how much money they are able to fork over to the church. In essence, the worth of a person is gauged by his or her wealth. You can test this by attempting to sit in the first couple of rows at your next major Scientology Inc. event. If you have not paid tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars to the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) you will be out of luck. It does not matter how many books you have sold to the public, how many people you have introduced to Scientology, or how many hours you have audited. Compare this state of affairs to L. Ron Hubbard’s view about measuring the worth of a person:
A bank account never measured the worth of a man. His ability to help measured his worth and that’s all.
– The Genus of Dianetics and Scientology, 31 December 1960
In the light of Ron’s views, how could such a culture arise where the value of an individual is measured by the size of his material holdings?
It did not happen overnight. It took decades after Ron’s death to institute a culture of worship to the almighty buck. It required getting the opinion leaders in the Scientology community on board with the idea that wealth is of paramount importance. It required the steady, increasing validation and rewarding of the anti-virtue of greed.
It began in the 1980s shortly after the passing away of L. Ron Hubbard. And it started with the family that has subsequently been promoted into unofficial royalty in the Scientology community, the Feshbach brothers, Joe, Matt and Kurt. The three were infamous stock market short-sell specialists during the era when glorification of greed was hip in America. “Short-selling” is betting, via the stock market, that a company will fail, and then profiting handsomely when it does. As the Feshbachs’ fortunes, amassed during the late ’80s, became almost legendary, the post-LRH pope of Scientology, David Miscavige did two things to wed Scientology with them.
First, Miscavige directed that the Feshbachs’ success in making money for nothing, and even assisting in the downfall of American businesses, become the primary publicized “success” story for Scientology. For years, Scientology Inc.’s marketing and public-relations units tirelessly churned out advertising, press releases and publications connecting the Feshbachs’ success to their involvement in Scientology.
Second, Miscavige invested his own money with the Feshbachs – money the Feshbachs dutifully and not-so-honestly converted into hundreds of thousands of dollars for Miscavige. Miscavige cleverly influenced several high-level members of the Scientology hierarchy to do the same, so as to avoid any internal flack over his corrupt activities. The people so corrupted included the then-Inspector General of the church (Greg Wilhere, whose first duty was to stamp out any such unethical dealings), the church’s highest scriptural authority (Ray Mithoff, at the time the Inspector General for Technology, and now Senior Case Supervisor International), and international Scientology’s highest-level manager (Watchdog Committee Chairman, Marc Yager).
In order to impress and bond with his then-newly-recruited Scientologist superstar, Tom Cruise, Miscavige encouraged him to also invest with the quick-buck brothers. With the highest officers of the hierarchy and Scientology’s most bankable star all investing with the Feshbachs, many lesser names in Scientology followed suit…